Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Technology is creating a dramatic shift in the way in which marketing teams work and communicate, as well as their role and influence over their organisation.
As was made clear in research by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Marketo, the marketing organisation of the future is changing as a whole, along with the role of tomorrow’s marketer.
The research was based on responses from 500 CMOs, 120 of them in Australia and New Zealand, and found more than 80 per cent of marketing executives need to restructure marketing by 2020. In addition, 29 per cent said change was urgently needed now.
“The future of marketing has already begun,” Marketo’s managing director, Greg Taylor, told CMO. “Restructures are occurring to align with CMOs’ increasing responsibility for the end-to-end customer experience, propelled by their growing access to firmographic and behavioural data enabling them to complete a 360-degree view of the customer.”
Here, we talk to other technology leaders, industry experts and marketer to see how they reimagine the future of work for next gen marketing leaders when it comes to workflow, work culture and hierarchy.
More remote and ‘hands-on’ working conditions
According to the founder of marketing project management company B.Kindred, Penny Locaso, the future marketer will be working more remotely and across multiple locations.
“For instance, they might be day or two in the office, a day or two with customers and most definitely a day in a co-working space learning from people who innovate with limited resources and look at business fundamentally differently from those in big business,” she said. “There is so much corporate marketers can learn from the startup and entrepreneurial world in terms of ideation, speed of execution, customer insight and attitude towards failure.”
Adobe’s director of transformation and digital strategy for Asia-Pacific, Mark Henley, agreed. While there will be less absolute requirement for people to be face-to-face, mixed models of physical, remote and co-working seem likely as urban densities increase, commuting times lengthen and the tools of the trade become ever more digital and cloud-based.
“The world of work will get radically transformed,” he said. “An optimistic view would be that reduction of commuting time, and removal of the repetitive aspects of people's roles, which could free them to do other things - things that are perhaps more suited to the human abilities of creativity and having ideas, and of finding connections in seemingly disconnected concepts.”
With the proliferation of cloud-based tools, Henley predicted work will become about ‘bits’, which can be done anywhere there is connectivity.
“An utopian ideal would be that work can occur wherever people prefer - from home, in a corporate office, from a co-working space, or even a mobile, rented office that drives itself to you,” he added.
Marin Software’s director of marketing for North America, Xuan Thu Pham, said where marketers work will depend on the nature of their organisation and its needs.
“In technology marketing, I feel you can work anywhere and be just as productive if not more, when you are armed with the right tools and team setup,” she claimed.
“Working for an organisation is like comparing marketing to water scarcity. It’s important for marketing to be on the ground where water is scarce, to see and experience first-hand what it's like to not have portable water, to see what's it's like to have to carry water for miles on foot in order to simply cook, eat, and shower. That's the magic of marketing - creativity and the ability to organise is not confined to any one place or time. It's boundless.”
Stronger influence over business strategy and communication
Experts also believe the future marketer will play a more integral role in business strategy, as well as leading internal communications and functions such as the intranet of the organisation.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s research, 87 per cent per cent of CMOs believe they will exercise significant influence over business strategy by 2020.
“This aligns with our belief that marketing itself will become the centre of customer engagement and digital interactions,” Taylor said. “In order to become the architects of the end-to-end customer experiences, their role must primarily include streamlining interactions with customers. This can only be achieved if marketers lead this form of internal collaboration.”
For Talent management software company Acendre’s APAC managing director, Karen Evans, the future marketer will find themselves working more closely with sales, finance, operations, HR and senior management teams than ever before.
“With the evolution of technology at its current and anticipated rapid pace, organisations have more tools at their fingertips to understand which business strategies are working well, which need to be improved, and which need to be introduced to take that organisation to the next level,” she said. “With these new levels of insight, all departments and staff will be able to work more collaboratively to address each identified issue, and also take greater responsibility for solving problems.”
This is particularly the case for internal transformations, such as intranet rollouts, she said. Marketing won’t just be contributing from a messaging standpoint as they may have in the past, they’ll also be working closely with HR to ensure the impact of employee engagement aligns with internal communications goals.
“They may even own the project within the department and regularly need to report into their c-suite to align the intranet’s roll out with overall business strategies,” she explained. “For intranets, marketing are strongly equipped with the tools and skills to drive internal communication efforts.”
Global marketing director of digital transformation consultancy Squiz, Robin Marchant, said businesses are increasingly looking to ‘update’ digitally - some through the use of intranets, others through internal and external website redesigns, or even launching mobile apps.
“Integrating these collaborative technologies can help create more inclusive workplace environments, increase employee engagement, and improve internal process efficiency,” he said. “But the main focus should remain on helping employees collaborate anywhere, anytime, on any device.”
Squiz recently revitalised Vision Australia’s intranet system in order to do exactly that - drive collaboration and enable more effective customer service.
“This is an increasingly common business need we are seeing – organisations approach us with the goal of engaging staff and contributing to more effective internal processes,” he said.
The more agile marketing team
According to Henley, the future of marketing will also see a shift toward influence over hierarchy - where success means marketing talent puts its hand up for roles in the marketing function, rather than being simply being assigned work based on function.
“Many businesses are already doing both,” he said. “Influence has become more important in information businesses where a number of deep specialisations are needed to achieve a task or project. Hierarchy emerged as a command and control structure from physical manufacturing, which was often linear, resource constrained and required that humans do things that might be dirty, dangerous, difficult and or boring and repetitive.”
Having less structural rigidity and control within marketing teams, leads to more autonomy, which frequently results in better outcomes, Henley claimed.
“Getting things done will require small, multi-skilled teams to work together, at short notice, at high intensity for short periods,” he said. “But traditional structures of hierarchy will struggle with this - they aren't usually agile enough, nor can a traditional manager assess performance very effectively if the employee is exercising deep skills across three or four teams working in a distributed fashion from locations around the globe.
“I'm not suggesting anarchy, nor unfettered 'do what you want' approaches, but rather, that a shift toward much, much greater flexibility and variability of place, type, rhythm and style of working will become more normalised.”
Tougher talent attraction
Talent attraction will be one of the biggest challenges for larger organisations who have well-known brand awareness, and that can be challenging to alter when it comes to securing the best people to work for the organisation, founder and director of talent recruitment firm Agency Iceberg, Anna O’Dea, claimed.
“The future of workplaces attracting, retaining and growing the best people comes down to how transparent an organisation wants to be about the real issues that affect the workplace,” she said. “Marketing should reflect the values of a brand and therefore their inclusion on issues that affect its people should be paramount.”
Ultimately, tomorrow’s marketing function will thrive when it allows marketers to connect meaningfully with their colleagues, partners and customers, Pham said.
“Increasingly, marketers are working with and communicating with many groups of people while also being expected to do and communicate the right things at the right time,” she said. “How do you connect with several groups of people in a sustainable way? I think tools such as Trello, Asana, Basecamp and even Droplr and Snagit are technologies that help marketers achieve order, collaboration, data tracking, delegation, historical documentation, and room for daydreaming with creative ideas. You're able to prioritise, track data, communicate in real-time, and even ask for feedback that can be turned into projects.”